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Dozens of journalists reportedly held on way to peace conference

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 24 August 2010: At least 25 journalists were held by the Yemeni army as they tried to attend a peace conference in the north of Yemen at the weekend, according to local reports. According to the Yemen Post, the journalists, from local, national and foreign press had been invited by tribal elders in the region to cover and attend the National Peace Conference.

Since 2004, permits have been required for travel to the northern region of Saada and neighbouring Amran for security reasons because of the ongoing conflicts between the government's forces, tribal groups and the Islamist Houthi Shiite rebels. The government has banned the national and foreign press from the region on security grounds, effectively creating a media blackout around the various conflicts.

The journalists were later released on orders of the Yemeni president Abdullah Saleh. However, they were expelled from the area and were thus unable to cover the event, which more than 600 regional sheikhs, social figures, clerics and intellectuals were due to attend.

Less than a week ago, Yemeni troops raided the home of high profile journalist Abdulelah Hiden Shaea, and detained him on unspecified charges.

Shaea, a freelance journalist and Al Qaeda analyst who often featured on Al Jazeera, had been abducted in July outside of a restaurant in the capital, Sana'a, by three unknown men who then took him to a prison run by the intelligence services and interrogated him for six hours over comments he made on Al Jazeera television on the activities of Al Qaeda in Yemen.

He was released on that occasion the following morning, before being detained again last week. Shaea was arrested at his home by around 15 to 20 soldiers, who stormed the house and took him by force, according to reports given by his brother to Al Masdar Online, the Web-based edition of Yemeni weekly newspaper Al Masdar. After the arrest, officers searched the house, confiscating his notes and laptop.

According to an IPI source in Yemen, Shaea is still being held at the prison and it is unclear when he is likely to be released.

"IPI is extremely concerned by these recent developments," said IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills. "This is the second time in less than six weeks that Mr. Shaea has been held without explanation. Yemeni and foreign journalists should not face harassment and arrest for reporting on sensitive issues, including threats to national security, such as Al Qaeda, nor should their movements to certain areas of the country be restricted."

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